The anticipation of building something special has Butch Davis fired up.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BEREA -- The first full outdoor practice of the year was just five minutes old and Browns coach Butch Davis stood watching two lineman pulverize each other in a drill.
Unlike the players, Davis was already in midseason form.
"Get off the [bleeping] ball!" Davis yelled.
He watched a no-name defensive end make a swim move past the opposing lineman.
"Get your hands extended, then make your move!"
An offensive lineman jumped the snap count. Davis exploded.
"C'mon! That's three offside penalties on the offense already!"
Davis said he was eager to get his second season started. Obviously, he wasn't kidding.
"There's been a lot of excitement and anticipation," he said. "A year ago, we did not do as well in training camp as I would have liked. But just in the first day, there were fewer offside penalties, fewer people lining up wrong.
"I feel really good about how things went."
Fresh off a 7-9 season that exceeded almost everyone's expectations, the Browns are thinking about making the playoffs.
So are the fans. After a three-year honeymoon period, Browns fans want results.
Just outside the practice field ropes, one fan -- who was carrying at least 20 extra pounds himself -- turned to his friend and said, "Look at the offensive line. They're just walking back to huddle. You can't do that on the first day of training camp."
The high expectations are partly justified. The team is more talented than they've been the past three years. Players have had a chance to learn Davis' system. Roster spots are harder to come by.
On Friday, veteran cornerback Emmanuel McDaniel ran past a reporter.
"Who the heck is McDaniel?" the reporter asked. In past years, he wouldn't have bothered to ask. No-name players were the rule. They're becoming the exception.
"There's immensely more competition for second team spots than there was last year," Davis said. "Some players are going to have to find a niche if they want to make this team."
Quest to stay healthy
Cleveland led the league in players on injured reserve last season, something that clearly aggravated Davis. The Browns fired former strength coach Tim Jorgensen this offseason and hired Buddy Morris to replace him.
"There's no question we're stronger," an obviously pleased Davis said. "But weight is only part of it. I want speed and athleticism but not at the expense of shriveling up."
On paper, the Browns are better. But will that translate into more wins?
They have six months to find out.